While winning four straight tennis matches this summer at the USTA Midwest Sectional Championship in Cincinnati, Nelle Youel wasn’t sure she could make it through the tournament.
On the court, she won every match in straight sets. But her bigger concern was off the court.
“I barely packed enough outfits for the tournament,” Youel said with a laugh. “I had never played in that tournament before.”
Youel, who will begin her junior season at Northern Illinois this month, had a heavier suitcase on her way home from Cincinnati after packing the tournament’s championship trophy.
The victory earned her a trip to the U.S. Open National Playoff, which begins Friday at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. The tournament winner will earn a wild-card entry into the 2013 U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament Aug. 20-23 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
“It’s really a great thing to get to go,” said Youel, a Crystal Lake Central graduate. “But going in, I don’t know what to expect. I’m just going to stick with my usual game plan.”
For Youel, that plan is to grind out matches and wear down opponents.
“I tell myself to always prepare for a three-hour match,” she said.
Youel enjoyed a marvelous sophomore season last year for the Huskies.
She set an NIU record for wins while going 27-5 in singles and 23-7 in doubles. She was the first NIU player in 11 years to be chosen first-team All-Mid-American Conference.
While going 4-0 in Cincinnati, Youel’s only rough patch was during a 7-5, 6-3 win in the finals against Syracuse’s Maddie Kobelt, an All-Big East Conference honoree.
Down 5-4 in the first set, Youel rallied to win the set and the match.
“I think my attitude really helped,” Youel said. “The biggest thing is just to know that I can beat anybody. [An opponent] may have beaten this player or that player, but they still have to beat you on that day.”
On the court, Youel said she relies on constant positive reinforcement.
“When you’re playing, you’re always talking to yourself,” she said. “I have things I always tell myself to [stay] positive, even if things are going badly.”
Youel said she is excited about competing against nationally recognized players at Yale.
“I enjoy being challenged and playing other really good players,” she said.
Yet she has not thought about winning the tournament and playing in one of the nation’s most prestigious tennis venues.
“It seems really far off,” she said.
For now, Youel said she is working on her off-the-court concern while in Connecticut.
“My parents and I are already trying to find a laundromat,” she said.
ISU’s Rosch wins MVP: Cary-Grove grad Ashley Rosch, a sophomore volleyball player at Illinois State, was named the Most Valuable Player at last month’s High Performance Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Rosch was playing in the tournament as a member of USA Volleyball’s women’s junior A1 national team. She helped her squad to a 7-1 record and the tournament title against teams from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and the U.S.
Playing in the women’s international junior division of the tournament, Rosch’s team was coached by former U.S. Olympian Rod Wilde.
Rosch will begin her sophomore season for ISU Aug. 30 when the Redbirds compete at the IUPUI tournament. Last season, Rosch became only the sixth freshman in Missouri Valley Conference volleyball history to be named first-team all-conference. She also was the MVC’s Freshman of the Year.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.